“I ’ll pay you 250 for this Rs500 ball,” she said. “Then buy the smaller one for 250 baji.” “Ok I’ll give you 100 for it.”
“Then buy the 100 rupee ball,” he smirked. Bargaining can be frustrating at both ends. Some hagglers will promise the price asked but then claim they don’t have enough change. Others will walk away in hopes of being called back. Yet others, like my aunt, (or perhaps it’s just my aunt?), will emotionally blackmail the salesmen by saying she’ll pay whatever makes him happy. This is a risky method that relies on the salesman’s conscience and how ‘dheet’ he is.
But to what avail have we devised these methods? In trying to make sure shopkeepers don’t rip us off, are we ripping them off? One shopkeeper at the Sunday bazaar I often visit said that he is usually left with no choice but to sell products at cost price so he can recover the rent of the stall, whilst another said that this is just how bazaars have worked since time immemorial. I’m not against haggling, my problem is when we get petty about it and fight to death for the last Rs20.
One determined haggler explained saying, “’it’s very satisfying to know that you have settled for the cheapest possible price.” But we should understand the difference between the cheapest possible price and saving a couple of bucks at the expense of someone’s livelihood. I personally bargain very little and put the extra few rupees down to a good deed. Naive, I hear you say.
I know most of us don’t give money to beggars because we feel it will only encourage them. But why do we subject those who are working hard for a living, be it selling cloth in a tiny shop or Santa Claus hats on the road, to practically the same treatment? Those Rs20 may make a small difference to our world but it will make all the difference to theirs.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 16th, 2010.